In 1927, the town of Red Fork on Tulsa’s southwest side was incorporated into the city. It’s where Tulsa County’s first oil discovery was made (Sue Bland Well No. 1) and is still home to a large, active rail yard. There were several communities in what is now Southwest Tulsa, actually; all still home to passionate long-time residents. Depending on who you ask, residents might still say they are from Red Fork, or Carbondale, or Garden City instead of Tulsa.
The main road is today known as Southwest Boulevard (named such in 1957 by changing portions of Quanah Street, Maybelle, and Sapulpa Road). In the early days, it had been on the Ozark Trail and became part of US Highway 66 when the federal highway system was established in 1926. As such, the area saw a significant amount of traffic. For travelers and locals alike, the Crystal City Amusement Park was a centerpiece and highlight of the area.
Tulsa’s Crystal City Amusement Park opened in 1928, incorporating elements of an existing park that had been there for some years but had fallen on hard times. The new ownership and energy brought a lot of new development, though the park continued to have a quiet, natural area for picnics as well as the latest amusements.
Crystal City was the home of the original ZINGO roller coaster. Decades later, Bell’s Amusement Park at the Tulsa Fairgrounds would build a new wooden roller coaster and give it the same name.
There was a miniature railway complete with station, built from native rock from Marble City, Oklahoma. It had a roller-skating rink, Ferris wheel, “Dodgem” cars, and the largest swimming pool in Oklahoma (1.2 million gallons of “sparkling, filtered Spavinaw water”). There was even a rodeo arena!
The Casa Loma Dance Hall was also a popular part of the park. It sat back on the lot, fronted by a creek and surrounded by the natural grounds that served as the public picnic area.
Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys played there often, as did orchestras and jazz performers from around the country. Casa Loma Terrace, a 13,000 sq. ft. outdoor dance pavilion, was added in 1937.
In the 1940s, the dance hall and terrace hosted Juneteenth celebrations and was often celebrated as a welcome venue for black performers. Advertisements called out that it was just a short bus ride from Greenwood, the predominantly black neighborhood on the north side of town.
Business declined in the post-war years and Crystal City Amusement Park closed in 1948. Several of the old rides were purchased by Lakeview Amusement in Mohawk Park. The picnic area remained open and the Casa Loma Ballroom/Terrace continued to host concerts for several years afterwards.
In 1956, several fires destroyed the old bath house and the vacant Casa Loma Dance Hall. The rest of the site was razed and the Crystal City Shopping Center opened on March 1 1960.
It still operates today on the west end of Tulsa’s Route 66 corridor. The vertical pillars are inspired by the original park’s architecture. The entire area is seeing a resurgence thanks to overall development of Route 66 and the continued passion of Tulsa’s westside community.